After a 73 day stay on the neonatal unit we got the exciting news that we could take our son home. Our baby boy was born at 30 weeks via an emergency c-section after the sonographer had seen that things weren’t quite right on the scan. We were told that our baby boy had 2 conditions, Hydrops Fetalis and SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia). His chances of survival were low at 10% so we never dreamed we would be taking our baby for his first day out.

I thought I would be going out for daily walks with my baby boy in his pram whenever I had pictured my maternity leave. My hope was that I could get some of my pram walks in as soon as my son was discharged. I didn’t realise though that the advice given to those being discharged is to stay home for an extra 2 weeks so that baby gets used to their new environment. Introducing too many things at once can be too much for your baby.

Then disaster struck and my son went into respiratory arrest after only having him home for 4 days. My husband performed CPR and managed to revive him just as the ambulances and first responder paramedics arrived on our road. We were rushed back to hospital where we stayed for a week. Once we were discharged our two weeks at home needed to start again.

Delaying the first day out

The experience of seeing my son go lifeless and having to resuscitate him at home was really traumatic. I was now nervous to take him out. What if it happened again? Would I be able to revive him on my own and call for help at the same time? Staying at home felt safe.

It took a while but my husband and family managed to convince me that short daily walks to get out of the house would be a good thing. I planned a short route in my head that meant I could quickly and easily get home if I needed to. I also made sure there were lots of houses around in case I needed to try and get more immediate help.

A woman walking with a pushchair. Photography credit: Marcin Jozwiak
A woman walking with a pushchair. Photography credit: Marcin Jozwiak

I was just getting comfortable with regular walks when I was stopped by a lady walking her dog. She asked if she could look at my baby, I angled the pram so she could see him better. She cooed over him and asked how old he was. I gave his actual age rather than his corrected age without thinking. The woman tried taking over my pram saying he was too small. There was tension as she left the unsaid sentence that she believed I was neglecting my child, leaving him malnourished.

The act of her trying to get hold of my pram to remove my child from my care shocked me and I quickly had to recount his early birth and health conditions. The encounter really upset me and knocked my confidence for a little while. All my walks avoided people at all costs for the next few weeks.

NICU meet up

A friend I made on the neonatal unit asked if I would like to meet up with her for coffee and cake. I replied that if hot chocolate and cake was on the cards I was in! We arranged a date to meet and I felt a little nervous about being in an enclosed space with lots of people who could judge me and my baby. I didn’t let it stop me from going though and I became excited about my afternoon out.

My friend’s little girl was on oxygen so attracted a bit more attention than my little boy. My friend handled comments and stares amazingly. We ended up sort of zoning everyone else out as we enjoyed our hot drinks and cake. It wasn’t until someone approached our table to ask questions that we even remembered there was other people about.

Lisa Norman enjoying a cup of tea. Photography credit: Vivienne Guy
Lisa Norman enjoying a cup of tea. Photography credit: Vivienne Guy

I had a renewed confidence to go out. There was only one other incident where I was sat in a café and my son needed feeding and his medication. There was a woman watching me from a few tables down. She was disgusted that my son was on strong medication. She recognised what it was and thought a baby shouldn’t have it. My son was on Propranolol which is used to treat SVT. However, it is also a medication used for people suffering anxiety. She only seemed to realise about the use of the medication for anxiety. She also made it clear she didn’t approve of my baby being bottle fed which is a story for another time.

My tips for that first day out

  • Check your bag is well stocked – nappies, wipes, nappy waste bags, spare outfit.
  • Make sure your phone is charged just in case there is anything urgent.
  • Meeting a friend can be a real confidence boost.
  • Be prepared for opinions from others (not all of them are negative, I promise!).
  • Above all try and enjoy that first day out, it’s all part of you making memories with your baby.

Did you see…

Did you see our recent blog on choosing childcare for your preemie